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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Changing Jobs

What to Do If You're Second-Guessing a Job Offer You Accepted

Look at you with that snazzy new job offer! After weeks (or maybe months) of searching, you’ve become a pro at finding the names of hiring managers, writing personalized cover letters, and, of course, mastering the interview process (first, second, and third round, thank you very much). And then it happens: You’re offered the position.

As skilled in interviewing as you are in mulling over the finer points of an offer, you take a couple of days, and then you accept. The job is yours! Life is grand.

Or is it?

As you inch closer and closer to your first day of work, you start to totally freak out. Did you make a hasty decision? What do you really know about the company, anyway? Why didn’t you apply to more jobs? Interview at more places before getting to this point? Why did you accept without talking to your friend Renee, your Uncle Mitch, your buddy’s little sister, Victoria? What have you gotten yourself into?

The anxiety is suddenly fast and furious, and you begin to believe that you made a terrible decision that can’t be reversed.

If this situation sounds familiar, there are two key things worth remembering: One, you probably didn’t make anything even remotely resembling a terrible decision. And two, if you did, it can in fact be reversed.

Let’s talk about the first point for a minute. If you were excited when you received the offer, try to conjure that feeling. Remember what it felt like hearing that this company chose you after learning about your skills and experience and meeting you in person. What you’re probably experiencing is cold feet. It happens when we see big changes in our future. Change is scary. Almost always. Do your best to not let this (absolutely normal) fear taint your initial enthusiasm.

Consider reaching out to your supervisor with a friendly email. Ask what you can expect on your first day or week, and let that information settle in. You might be feeling out of the loop (you get an offer, you accept, then you wait—sometimes just a few days, but often weeks—to start), and it could boost your spirits to connect with your future place of employment beyond the initial acceptance. Connecting with your future colleagues online is another idea to get you enthused about your new gig. Retweet something, like an Instagram photo, or reach out on LinkedIn. You might also try psyching yourself up by Googling the company and reading up on recent press. Coming across a flattering piece about the founder or the company’s innovative perks is bound to get you pumped.

If, like me, you’re someone who values a good list (and your excitement isn’t stirred by trying one of the tactics above), go ahead and make one: Write down all of the reasons you’re second-guessing the job. It could be anything from “I’m worried that the commute is going to suck” to “I’m not sure I took enough time off between jobs,” to “I’m not 100% sure this is the best move.”

Get it all out, and work through each and every one. Most of them are probably related to that good ol’ cold-feet factor. You’ve got nerves. It’s a big step starting a new job with all new people in a new building at a new desk, but you’ve got to go with your gut. And if your gut was screaming yes when the call came in, that’s all you really need to know. Quell your chaotic mind, and get ready to begin the next chapter of your career.

If, on the other hand, you cannot recall any initial excitement or enthusiasm and truly believe you rushed to a decision, then you have a little more work to do. Deep down, does it feel like you said yes because someone (a parent, partner, friend, or recruiter) pressured you into it? Are your reasons for concern valid (e.g., since accepting, you’ve received numerous emails from your future boss instructing you to basically start working without getting paid)? If you made a list and you aren’t able to cross most things off as being silly, nervous anxieties, then you very well may have made a bad decision—the wrong decision—and you need to get out of it.

While it’s not terribly common for people to accept jobs and then renege on the offers, it does happen every now and then. It’s not going to be the most comfortable thing in the world to rescind your acceptance—and you may unfortunately burn a bridge or two—but it’d be worse to let the company invest in your orientation only to have to jump ship a week or month into it.

You’ll need to think long and hard, but if you conclude that you made a mistake in accepting, just know that you won’t be the first one to bow out before the first day. Make sure to read Lily Zhang’s advice for what to do when you have to renege—as well as a few tips to help make sure you’re never in this boat again.

Either way, trust that whatever you decide to do will be the right thing for you. If you accepted and stick with your decision and it works out, you’ll hardly remember second-guessing yourself. And if you renege, well, you’ll survive. You always do.

Photo of nervous man courtesy of Shutterstock.